Marine environment

The diversity of three oceans, five climate zones, varied underwater seascapes and mighty currents bring together a trove of ocean treasures.


With a coastline stretching 70,000 kilometres, Australia is home to a great diversity of species and marine ecosystems. Some 33,000 marine species are known to occur in Australian waters, many of which are unique to our nation.

As the 2021 State of the Environment (SOE) report highlights, these marine ecosystems provide services that underpin our wellbeing, support valuable marine industries and hold deep meaning for all Australians, especially the Traditional Owners of Sea Country. 

Yet as the report also makes clear, while many Australian marine habitats are healthy, our reefs are declining as a result of the effects of climate change and cumulative pressures. This includes our beloved Great Barrier Reef — the world’s largest coral reef — which supports an abundance of marine life and more than 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays.

While continued improvement in scientific knowledge and investment in ocean observing have improved our understanding, Australia’s deep-sea habitats, communities and species remain poorly observed and understood.

Better monitoring and marine management are needed, but as the SEO report stresses, even the best management will not stop environmental decline if we do not address climate change and cumulative effects.

2021 State of the Environment report

Every five years, leading scientists collaborate to deliver a comprehensive assessment of the state of Australia’s natural environment — the State of the Environment (SOE) report. For the latest information on the condition, outlook and impacts, and management of the marine environment, read the 2021 SOE report’s marine chapter and watch the chapter briefing. See also the coasts chapter and accompanying briefing.

Funder group

Meet other funders who are passionate about protecting our natural world. Australia is one of the most unique and biodiverse areas on the planet. Whether it is the underwater kingdom of the Great Barrier Reef, ancient Tasmanian old-growth forests, the magic of the Kimberley and the Daintree, our glorious oceans, or the Lake Eyre Basin, nature is worth fighting for in this country. However, what we treasure is under increasing threat. 

If you fund threatened species recovery, private land conservation, nature restoration, ocean conservation, advocacy, forest protection, invasive species, or any other issue that impacts our precious environment – this funder group is for you. We also encourage you to join if you are interested in learning about funding these important areas. 

By joining the nature funder group we will send you invitations to the upcoming meetings each month. You can join our online events and participate in the discussion through the mailing list.

What philanthropy can do

Solutions to the challenges are diverse. The following is a sample of the more important responses.

We can protect the marine environment by

  • creating a system of marine national parks or sanctuaries free of extractive uses – just like national parks on land, this system should include each type of habitat and protect critical breeding, feeding and resting areas of our ocean life
  • ensuring our oceans are better planned and managed and ecologically sustainable
  • raising awareness about the state of our marine environment
  • supporting pilot projects that demonstrate regional solutions.

Reduce and manage impacts on the marine environment by

  • strengthening enforcement of laws and regulations (e.g. policing of illegal fishing)
  • reducing land-based sources of ocean pollution, including agricultural chemicals and debris
  • stopping water quality decline on the Great Barrier Reef by repairing land along nearby riverbanks
  • maintaining ground cover in river catchments and minimising agricultural runoff
  • tightening controls on shipping in particularly sensitive areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and identifying solutions to other shipping issues such as ocean noise, increased turbidity and invasive species
  • limiting coastal development, including new port facilities, in particularly sensitive areas
  • reducing carbon emissions
  • minimising the threats posed by invasive species.

Manage the impacts of oil, gas and mining by

  • improving the way we manage accident risk including establishment of baselines, spill monitoring, modelling, forecasting, emergency response and environmental risk assessment
  • connecting oil and gas industry planning and regional environmental management
  • assessing and potentially stopping risks such as seabed mining for ores and heavy metals
  • assessing and managing risks associated with the expansion of shipping.

Manage the impacts of fishing and aquaculture by

  • changing Australian fisheries so there are fewer boats but improved sustainability and profitability
  • banning destructive fishing techniques such as trawling
  • limiting destructive fishing by buying fishing licences
  • ending targeted shark fishing
  • addressing the impacts of recreational fishing as part of the overall management of Australian fisheries
  • creating a movement for sustainable fishing with information and tools for consumers and seafood suppliers
  • supporting the establishment of sustainable aquaculture focused on species that can be produced through lower impact systems and provide consumer advice on this.

Further the knowledge base on the marine environment by

  • investing in marine sciences and research that improves management and builds our understanding of temperate and tropical marine systems
  • supporting research that demonstrates the benefits of marine conservation.

Nature funder group

Australia is one of the most unique and biodiverse areas on the planet. Join us to discuss how to fund threatened species recovery, private land conservation, nature restoration, ocean conservation and others issues that impact our precious environment.